That's how most of the galleries in Denver pour liquor legally today. Ironically, the Art District on Santa Fe does not encourage its members to offer alcohol during First Friday openings. The crowds are crazy enough those nights. "It's just too crowded to do that, and we're also trying to encourage people to go to our restaurants and brewpubs, to keep them open and active thirty days a month," says Jack Pappalardo, the current president of the Art District on Santa Fe, which will be honored with the Entrepreneurial Arts Award at the 2012 Mayor's Award for Excellence in the Arts ceremony on November 15, and earlier this year was named one of the state's first two official cultural districts. (The other is downtown Salida.)

Unit E is so DIY, it hasn't yet become a member of the Art District on Santa Fe, much less done any paperwork establishing itself as a business. And for the first few days after Ziemba got that very official piece of paper from the cops that told him to be in court on December 6, he and his crew thought they might have to shut down. But then they did what they do best: They got creative. Ziemba posted an alert on Facebook, telling supporters, "On the plus side, I've made a ton of friends, my band has got to play some amazing shows, I've admired beautiful paintings, I've heard amazing bands (and have seen them grow), read wonderful poetry, and I have learned how our system trumps the entrepreneur." But not the law, so now they've also set up an account where they can raise funds to keep Unit E going, and people are offering to donate money, to donate paintings. (Find out more at www.unit-edenver.com.)

When Ziemba was booking bands for the Blacktop Festival, he followed all of the city's licensing and sales tax rules. He just didn't know there were rules for making and supporting DIY art, too. "I thought it was more of a community thing, that it would help our community to grow, to make connections — not to make money," he says. "It's turning into quite an art town."

Denver is the top destination in the country for 25- to 34-year-olds who are relocating, a desirable demographic touted by the governor, by the mayor, by Ziemba himself. "We're the people they've been looking to," he says. "Denver is a growing city, full of creative people."

He'd like to remain one of them. "We want this city to grow," he says. "I love this city; we all love this city. But we have to let artists try new things without too many restrictions." When he heard about the legal loophole created to accommodate galleries that want to permit their parties, though, he decided that was a restriction they could handle.

So at the same time they're raising funds, they're hoping to raise awareness with other groups — and with the city itself — that some artful explanation of the rules might come in very handy during Denver Arts Week.

And every other week. Maybe next time, they can give the mayor a beer.

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2 comments
shanemighell
shanemighell

well well well my son thadeaous this is your dad sorry that this happened to you guys iam so proud of you maybe the city could have come around and metioned these rules to everybody so that it all would have been legal but i guess this is lesson learned by all includeing the city of denver lets give them a chance i think a warning would have been good enough they are doing good things at unit e i have been there several times and it was a great time!

ROCK ON UNIT E IAM WITH YA

 
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